Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sepia Saturday 152: Less is More

The New York City Public Library is one of the largest in the world, with tens of millions of books in it's collections. In 1911 when it opened it boasted one million books and 30,000 to 40,000 visitors streamed through the building on opening day. The boys in this photo were no doubt blown away by the building and the amazing number and variety of books available to lend. I wonder what they heard at the lecture preceding this photo and I wonder which books they decided to lend or browse through? No doubt they were given instructions on how to treat a book respectfully and taught about the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal System.

They might have been instructed not to leave things in loaned books when they return them. My inside source on library matters, Nancy Javier, "Ladies of the Grove" volunteers at the Fallbrook library and she told me about an exhibition of such items the library hosted. Curious, I looked up the top ten things people leave in library books - things like unpaid utility bills, business cards, advertising flyers, pizza coupons, playing cards. My husband uses foreign currency for book marks and has left more than a few bills in library books.

Last week I started with the phone theme and ended up writing about phone booth recycling. I found that some inventive sorts have turned these booths/boxes into the very antithesis of NYPL - very tiny "honor" libraries of the "take one, leave one" variety.  This one with the line-up is in Wells, England in the village of Westbury-Sud-Mendip. I love British hyphenated hard-to-spell place names. When these towns were christened they didn't have to worry about repeating the name and spelling it three times for Fed Ex.  Our town would be so much more interesting with a name like Fallbrook-by-Pendleton, or Fallbrook-on-Santa Margarita. But alas, in this busy age brevity serves us better than romance.

On the interior of the phone box library you can see that the bottom shelf is the children's section.

Thinking smaller and smaller, which suits my pea brain very well, I bumped into the "Little Free Library" movement, started by Todd Bol of Hudson Wisconsin when he built a little free library box and planted in in his yard as a memorial to his mother, a lover of books and a school teacher. People loved it and a movement was started. Now there are more than 2500 little free libraries across the US and in 32 other countries.

Stories abound about why people were inspired to build them but primarily they were motivated to promote libraries and love of reading. They help develop a sense of community through shared commitment. You can read about them, order one and join the movement here:
Little Free Libraries

Here's the sign you can order for your tiny library:

Looking for an unusual, useful, long-lasting birthday present? Here's one presented to Diane Cors from her thoughtful husband Art. What a terrific present for a librarian! Art could give gift-giving lessons to husbands everywhere. 

This beautiful library box was painted by Helen Klebesedel. It was sold along with nine others and the proceeds went to charity. The basic box in many styles may be purchased from the web site of Little Free Libraries. Just add artistry.
 Here's a community effort. School classes, community organizations, wood working classes are typical of group efforts.
A specialty tiny mystery library.  I'll bet they don't really stand on ceremony and let you contribute whatever books you have - big mysteries, little mysteries, no mystery at all.

The mother of these three young girls, in Tustin California read about the libraries in a newspaper article. She and her daughters bought a terrarium, painted it red and stocked it with their favorite books, one of which was "The Book Thief".

There are hundreds of pictures of LFL's online and many wonderful stories about the people who build them and the ripple effect they have on the community and around the world.

Small Things Are The Start of Big Things
"All great things are only a number
of small things that have carefully
been collected together."
Source unknown 

"Check out" more stories about this library photo at
Sepia Saturday


  1. The little free libraries are a good idea (and cute).

  2. I didn't realize there was such an organized effort of establishing random little libraries. Now that I think of it, this is like the bookshelf at my hairdresser where clients are invited to give or take or both.

  3. What a nice idea. I have several boxes of books that I'm going to donate to a book sale. I would donate them to a tiny library if I saw one around.

  4. I haven't written my post for this week yet, but thought about including something about the Little Free Libraries after reading an article in the paper last week. Now you have done it - quite well, so I'm glad I took an early look and I'll leave that bit out of mine!

  5. What a fantastic idea! My favourite place when I was a kid, was the bookmobile that used to come to the school behind our house on Wednesday afternoons. I lived in there!

  6. It's a great idea to offer books to read! A nifty way to present to new readers too.

  7. A simple but a great idea. I hadn't heard of the Little Free Libray scheme. Now some charity shops in the UK do something similar but you have to pay a 'fee'.

  8. What a wonderful idea! I have this image of Little Free Libraries popping up in neighborhoods around the world -- might even start one myself!

  9. Never heard about LFL before and I don't think anything like that exists here. To me it seems something for small communities cause I can hardly believe it would survive in big cities. I like to think I am wrong here.
    In any case I enjoyed reading your post!

  10. I love that idea too. At one of our Dollar Stores there is a table where books are left and are sold for $1.00 this goes to the Literacy Council in our county. I have bought several and take mine in to sell.

  11. I had no idea the Free Library movement had spread so. What a neat expansion on the theme. I especially like the bird house. Here in our community we have a nice library and an auxiliary of sorts, "Friends of the Library." We "friends" support and raise funds at various times during the year, a cookie walk (aka sale) at the annual Christmas parade, we run a used book store of sorts which is not free but nearly so--all paperbacks are 50 cents and most all hard backs are only $1. We have space donated in a building by a local merchant after we lost our free garage. If I lived where there were no libraries, I would start a free one. On our RV travels I have seen the free exchange tables at many RV parks.

  12. What a fun idea these little free libraries are! And I find it interesting that there is still a demand for "real" books with all of the e-books out there now. There's just something about actually holding a book to read it.

  13. I am another one who has never heard of the Little Free Library movement. I am now tempted to set one up in my garden. Another lovely post.

  14. Little Free Libraries is such a great idea and wonderful for you to pass it along in your blog. Perfect post for the theme.

  15. Just ran across another type of book dispenser from a friend on Facebook, Bibliomat: a Vending Machine ....

  16. I love the idea of those tiny libraries!!! I have one of my own, of sort... When I get rid of books [much like anything else], I simply pile them up in the garbage room of the building, next to the chute, and everything's gone in no time, and not to the garbage, I swear!!! Since I've moved a few times... the need to purge happens once in a while.